SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
The Southern Reach Trilogy begins with this Nebula Award-winning novel that “reads as if Verne or Wellsian adventurers exploring a mysterious island had warped through into a Kafkaesque nightmare world” (Kim Stanley Robinson).
Area X has been bring to an end from the remainder of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second one expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, we sign up for the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, keep away from being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers―they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding―but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2014: There’s a comfort in familiarity, a foundation from which to definitively identify and label. But Jeff VanderMeer is not interested in putting his readers at ease. With Annihilation–the first volume of The Southern Reach Trilogy–he carefully creates a yearning for answers, then boldly denies them, reminding us that being too eager to know too much can also be dangerous. The story follows an expedition of four women who are known only by their professions: the Psychologist, the Surveyor, the Anthropologist, and the Biologist–nameless pawns tasked with exploring, discovering, and (with a bit of luck) delivering data about a portentous coastal territory referred to as Area X. We are a bit like fifth members of that team (perhaps “the Reader”), learning at the same pace, guided by the observations of our narrator, the Biologist. Still the context remains blurry as VanderMeer twists each discovery into a deeper mystery. Through potent description and unrelenting tension, he achieves a level of emotional manipulation that are supposed to appeal to anyone who embraced the paranormal phenomena and maddening uncertainties of Lost. —Robin A. Rothman